I want to be the new crony.

Now that we have a new state government, I am hoping that real change will happen.

As a resident of PJ, we will be getting a new MBPJ. I last read that they are looking for an outdoor advertising man to monitor the billboards. I think designers are looking at a nice rebranding project about to happen.

How can they not do a rebranding? MBPJ (PJ City Council) looks like an old and arrogant establishment. We need new ways to communicate to its target audience. The branding exercise also needs to motivate the demoralised existing staff who aren’t sure whether they would still be in the office – if they are those who earn a paltry official RM1200 salary, yet staying in a 2-storey bungalow and driving black Perdanas.

I am almost certain of this: for the first time, the job will not automatically fall into the hands of cronies. How about this – DAP-PKR-PAS, if you are listening, I want to be your new crony. I want to give your new foothold a makeover.

This is what I would like to propose to the new MBPJ.

The arrogant authoritarian image of MBPJ has to go. They are to serve the residents, not to rule over them. A dark blue uniform chap wearing a police looking emblem is nothing close to being friendly or approachable.

I usually don’t like to recommend disposing of the existing logo, even though it is a very designer thing to equate rebranding with a new logo. For MBPJ, the logo simply has to go. Do a Bunga Raya, a dove, a smiley face, a heart shape, or just typeset MBPJ in Frutiger. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a logo! The priority is to make it say “MBPJ is here to serve you” and not “MBPJ is here looking for ways to saman you”.

Let me start with the normal designer’s package deal. Do the logo change. Establish brand identity guidelines. Redesign the uniform – perhaps a smart causal with a tie would do. Repaint the vans – especially the raiders of the illegal DVDs and Mamak stalls.

What I would like to recommend is to use the budget wisely. Upgrade your MBPJ contact points. The payment hall’s environment is gloomy and dreadful. The PJ Civic Centre chairs are breaking apart. The library needs new books and magazines. Get a good interior person to work along with the brand guidelines and improve these touchpoints. I won’t say this will make paying fines and taxes a joyful experience, but at least, it is not so depressing.

I would also propose that MBPJ invests heavily in their website. The latest news is zero news. The sistem semakan kompaun is not working. The current web reflects the owner – irrelevant and obsolete. Don’t say the internet penetration rate is low. Young working classes do run errands and help their parents pay bills – the summons and the cukai pintu. If MBPJ gives them a more efficient method to do so and eliminates the agony of queuing up, the city council’s revenues should increase. That is ROI-talk, if MBPJ needs a reason to invest in good web design. Coming fresh from the election victories, the new state government should know better about the power of Internet.

MBPJ should reduce unnecessary printed collaterals. It is ironic to scream aloud big words like green sustainability while pumping out pompous leaflets declaring PJ as a smart city. While we are on the subject of printed collaterals, I would like to offer my design services to redesign all the official forms. It’s not because I want to show off what I can do with Helvetica. Seriously, the forms just don’t make sense to most people. One word of caution though, to keep up with the “we care” positioning, MBPJ may be required to create new job opportunities for the professional form-fillers outside the MBPJ premises.

Most importantly, please don’t put up buntings and billboards all over PJ to tell people how great MBPJ is. When one is great, the people will know – there’s no need to scream. Don’t cut corners on identity development and then spend a bomb telling the world about the logo change. Bad is bad – didn’t we already learn the lesson from Telekom’s rebranding?

I wish to go on with the list, but I am reminded about the need to protect our profession. We are dealing with intellectual property here! I can’t give any more free ideas.

There are other areas that MBPJ should look into if they were to take rebranding seriously. An extensive brand audit and research need to be conducted. A proper proposal needs to be prepared and evaluated. Most crucially, MBPJ should prepare to build a long term relationship with a good design consultancy, making them a partner until the 2013 elections. Why does that sentence sound creepily like rewarding a crony with a lucrative contract?

I know as a designer, it’s definitely a nice challenge to rebrand a city council.

For that, I don’t mind being a DAP crony!

(This was first posted as a contributed article on kakireka blog. I have edited it slightly and added a glossary of terms to aid foreign readers. It’s a very Malaysian thing-la.)

Little glossary of terms, or otherwise, a quick introduction to Malaysia’s socio-political culture.

  • Perdanas: Expensive underpowered 2.0 local car, advertised as “for those who have not only arrived, but arrived in style.” Around RM110,000. High powered government officials prefer to be officially seen in these to reflect their patriotism. Their BMWs and MERCs are secretly kept in the garage.
  • Cronyism: Also known as politics of patronage – the awarding of contracts and deals to politicaly connected businesses (or individuals), typically without a transparent tender process and frequently rumoured to benefit the pockets of those who are in authority.
  • Saman: Malay word for summons. Also a generalised word for traffic offence tickets, compound fines, etc. The blue uniform chaps are rewarded (monetarily) based on the number of summons issued per day.
  • Mamak Stalls: Refers to Muslim Indian operated restaurants, notorious for frequently taking ownership of public roads by extending their licensed restaurant area through placing tables and chairs illegally. It’s a Malaysian culture thing to dine and chat outdoors, and also a Malaysian culture thing for the authority to collect a bribe under the understanding that eyes will be closed and mouths will be shut, and business will go on. Though occasionally the MBPJ has to “pretend” to be doing work, by going around confiscating the illegal tables and chairs.
  • Cukai Pintu: Cukai is tax, and pintu is door – otherwise known as assessment rate on property. One of the many taxes we have to pay.
  • Sistem semakan kompaun: Supposingly, you can check how much compounded fines you owe the state government by going online. Supposingly. If the website is working.